Yesterday afternoon, there was a protest march in central London. This is not an exceptional event. However, the aftermath of the march – with a fringe group of protesters managing to enter and trash Tory HQ on Millbank – has led to the Metropolitan Police being accused of being unprepared, and set the right leaning part of the blogosphere into full froth mode.
So how did events get out of control? The march – called by the National Union Of Students (NUS) over the upcoming rise in tuition fees – had been organised and cleared well in advance. The Met knew and agreed the route. But somehow the police persuaded themselves that no more than 5,000 would turn up. Someone missed a zero off that one: more than 50,000 attended.
And for all those protesters, less than 250 police were deployed. Moreover, while the Lib Dem HQ in nearby Cowley Street was protected, that of the Tory Party at 30 Millbank was not. Clearly, for some on the fringe of the protest, the temptation was too much and what followed did not reflect well on all concerned. Young Dave, watching from his visit to Korea, was not impressed with the Met.
As the clear-up begins, and peace is restored to the area, what is to be learnt from these events? Met Commissioner Paul Stephens has admitted that the policing of the protest was “an embarrassment”. Occasional London Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson has blustered about how those who used violence “will face the full force of the law”, something the relevant authorities might have already known.
But out there on the right, there are vengeful minds clunking slowly into gear. Despite his condemnation of the violence, NUS head man Aaron Porter is being fingered for the disturbances: Paul Staines, who blogs under the alias of Guido Fawkes, makes a number of typically colourful allegations including naming Porter. Staines’ tame gofer Henry Cole, aka Tory Bear, claims that pressure is mounting on Porter.
And looking on from his Twitter feed, our old friend Donal Blaney claims that the NUS is to be sued, that they face financial ruin, suggests that the police should have used baton rounds, and even tries to suggest a conspiracy involving Harriet Harman. But then, Blaney also suggests that Barack Obama is an “erstwhile Indonesian citizen” who attended a madrassa. And he, along with Staines and Cole, miss the point.
Suing the NUS, demonising its head, scratching around after non-existent conspiracies, and calling for more aggressive policing will not serve if there is real and sustained dissent from the Government line. The Coalition has only been there for six months, and the wider cuts have yet to bite. There could be a lot more unrest out there in the months to come.